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I have a few .MKV video files that I would like to be able to list in iTunes so that I can stream to my Apple TV device. I currently use the Beamer app (MacBook) to stream them across however I was hoping that I could create a nice looking library of videos in iTunes and stream them that way instead.

I do not need these videos to be able to play on any iOS devices, so is there any way that they can be converted to .M4V/.MP4 without loss of picture or sound quality?

I've tried few apps such as Subler - I can seem to keep picture quality however the audio is definitely poorer. My videos tend to be 1080p HD with DTS.

Could anyone prehaps offer any solutions for full quality video streaming in iTunes?

Many thanks! Dan.

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MKV and MP4 are not video format, they are containers. An MKV can contain any type of video/audio stream.

Most of the time, MKV contains H264/AC3 DTS (video/audio; the most common format in blu-ray).

The official specification of MP4 do not allow the AC3 format for the audio channel, but the H264 format is possible for the video. Thus, you can convert losslessly an MKV to an MP4, for the video channel only. The audio channel will have to be re-encoded

I recommend using ffmpeg (a command-line tool) to achieve this goal.

Note: You can try and create an MP4 containing AC3, but I don't think it will work in iTunes or the Apple TV, even though players like MPlayerX or VLC will be able to play them.

  • Note that ffmpeg is a command-line tool which must be used in a Terminal. Don't hesitate to add a comment on the answer if you need help using it (the syntax is not trivial if you're not used to it). – Frizlab Nov 27 '13 at 16:51
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    The syntax I found for this re-wrapping (re-encoding is not the right term) was "ffmpeg -i input.mkv -vcodec copy -acodec copy output.mp4". WFM but YMMV. – jimtut Nov 30 '13 at 2:52
  • Just as some more help for using ffmpeg: superuser.com/questions/472420/… recommends ffmpeg -i input.mkv -c:v copy -c:a copy output.mp4 and also points to a SU blog entry written by the author: blog.superuser.com/2012/02/24/… – TJ Luoma Dec 1 '13 at 10:15
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You can't Google this topic without coming across Handbrake, a terrific free tool for re-encoding into all sorts of containers/formats. Frizlab's answer for ffmpeg is spot on for the lossless conversion, but I'm still a big fan of Handbrake (HB). You can add several audio tracks easily (I'm sure ffmpeg can do this somehow too), include subtitles, etc. Handbrake does include presets for just about ALL Apple devices, but the only problem I've had is trying to encode something that will work in ALL of our devices.

HB's MP4 setting does support AC-3 passthru audio, or a 5.1 AAC channel, which will work terrfically with ATV. However, I recently tried loading some of those AC-3 files on my iPhone 5 and iPad 1, and they didn't work. Turns out that you need to include an AAC audio track in addition to the AC-3, and it needs to be the FIRST track. Encode like this, and you'll get something that plays well on ATV (in 5.1) and on your portable iDevices too.

Experiment around though, like with just encoding a few minutes, or a chapter if that's possible with the MKV files you have. There's nothing like being able to play any of your movies on the big screen, or take them with you to the gym!

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    The problem with Handbrake is that it has no way of passing through the video channel. It is a waste of processing power to re-encode a perfectly fine video channel just to encode properly the audio channel. So, definitely, use ffmpeg. – KPM Mar 9 '14 at 4:56
  • I have answered a similar question here: apple.stackexchange.com/a/123658/3301 – KPM Mar 9 '14 at 4:56
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I use this: http://www.emmgunn.com/mp4tools/mp4toolshome.html To convert the audio without transcoding the video. It is trialware so you can't lose if you don't like it.

FFMPEG from the command line is not for the faint of heart. And ffmpegx is just about as complicated. I have spent a lot of time with both of these and they are definitely geek tools.

Most if these transcoders and the ones like Pavtube use FFMPEG to do the work and they are just a GUI for it. FFMPEG is open source but the GUI front ends for them are not (except Handbrake).

All that said, Handbrake is the easiest way to convert files to play on iTunes or AppleTV but it has no facility for video passthru. You can set the quality similar to what you start with but no matter what, Handbrake will re-encode the video.

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protected by Community Feb 17 '14 at 12:39

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